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Sunday, 28 July, 2002, 21:42 GMT 22:42 UK

Wales wilt under England pressure

By Bruce Pope
BBC Sport Online in Manchester

England's netballers stayed on course for a crunch Commonwealth Games showdown with New Zealand after inflicting an 81-18 defeat on Wales on Sunday night.

The Kiwis had underlined their billing as Pool A favourites earlier, running up a Commonwealth scoring record by destroying Sri Lanka 116-26 - their second record of the weekend at the MEN Arena.

But England - the bronze medallists four years ago in Kuala Lumpur - showed that they will be no pushovers on Monday night when the Kiwis go looking for the win that would surely guarantee an automatic semi-final spot.

"It's getting better every day so hopefully by tomorrow we'll be playing really well," England skipper Olivia Murphy said.

"England have got a lovely, tall, rangy defence "
Wales coach Raewyn Henry

"We can only be confident; there's no point in walking out on the court against New Zealand and not being confident because they'll walk all over you - as they seem to have done to other teams.

"We're looking forward to it, we're quite excited, it'll be another challenge. They beat us quite convincingly last time when we played them, so we can only do better."

Wales, meanwhile, have just their narrow opening win over Sri Lanka in the bank and now face winless Canada on Monday, although admittedly their two losses have come against New Zealand and England.

In Amanda Newton and Sonia Mkoloma, England possess a powerful and athletic defensive combination that makes opposition goals hard to come by.

Wales goal attack Sian Edwards certainly had a difficult night against the English pair, managing just three goals from six attempts before being withdrawn at half-time, as England - in front of raucous support - opened up a 36-10 lead.

The introduction of the dynamic Helen Case at wing attack for the second quarter had added some much-needed urgency to the Welsh efforts, helping to combat England's greater movement in the middle third of the court.

But the steady flow of English goals continued, with goal attack Abby Teare turning her team-mates' passes - often from wing attack Tracey Neville, enjoying herself on her home patch - into goals.

Alongside Teare, Alex Astle was having less success, scoring only just over half of the scoring opportunities that came her way in the first half.

Some of those misses were down to the never-say-die attitude of Wales goal keeper Sarah-Louise Hale, but - although her second-half performance was much improved - Astle cannot afford to show such profligacy against New Zealand.

The thrilling 59-58 win over England in last year's European Championship final must now seem a long time ago for Wales coach Raewyn Henry, the wife of former Wales rugby coach Graham.

"It's a little bit disappointing but in terms of the experience it's been great for the girls," Henry said.

"We actually came up with a lot of ball and we showed a lot of character and they kept trying, but England have got a lovely, tall, rangy defence and we just couldn't get the ball in."

The New Zealander has helped oversee a big improvement in Welsh netball but unfortunately arch-rivals England have also kept progressing.

There is a chance to regain some confidence against Canada, but Henry must then send her players out against her native country on Tuesday with the Silver Ferns looking in menacing form.

"That'll be an interesting experience for us," Henry quipped, saying that she expected there to be no favours from her compatriots.

"But it'll be good for the girls to play New Zealand because they don't often get those chances, and regardless of the outcome I think they'll enjoy it."

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